Good Morning! OHAYOGOZAIMASU! Today we talk about the Sangha. In Shin Buddhism, we place emphasis on the Sangha. We emphasize the Sangha over the individual...we emphasize sharing over self. Shin Buddhism is based upon the Original Vow [Hongan] of Dharmakara Bodhisattva or Hozo Bosatsu. Our mother temple in Kyoto is called Hongwanji, or Temple of the Original Vow. The Original Vow basically states that I will not enter into enlightenment until all others are assured to attain enlightenment as well. Enlightenment for the self is just another selfish act.
Please join me in Gassho: Those who reach the Pure Land of happiness return to the evil world of the five defilements where, like the Buddha Shakyamuni, they benefit sentient beings without limit. (Jodo Wasan)
Other forms of Buddhism emphasize the individual...the path to enlightenment is an individual journey...polish the stone that is the self...make it a mirror so you can see your true self...so you can see true reality. In Shin Buddhism, we emphasize the Sangha...we are made to become aware of the interrelations and interconnections that we share. Our perspective changes from seeing individual knots tied together to a view of the whole net without distinction. This net is a continuum from the infinite past running through today and into the unknowable future. Seeing ourselves as part of this net, we know our place in the cosmic picture...we are an integral part of everything. Within this view, we are valuable and critical and have a responsibility to live to the best of our capacity.
When we come to the temple to chant and to listen to the Dharma, we are reminded of our connection, our value, and our responsibility. These are the reasons we leave refreshed...invigorated, and ready to take on another day. When we don't come to the temple, we lose the benefit of the constant reminders that help us to enjoy this life of awareness where life is fuller and clearer and happier.
Rev. Taitsu Imai was a minister at the Tacoma Buddhist Temple. In one Dharma talk, he relayed a story of an elderly couple. The wife was born and raised by a family which was devoted to listening to the Dharma. As she became an adult, she also came to enjoy the Shin Buddhist life of listening to the Dharma. She came to the temple regularly, and tried not to miss opportunities to hear the Dharma.
A well-known Sensei was coming to speak at the temple, and she and her friends were looking forward to the day he would be here. She continued with her usual work and chores around the house, but she was anticipating the upcoming service. The night before the service, she said to her husband, "Tomorrow, there will be a well-known sensei visiting our temple. I will be attending to listen to his sermon with my friends. We all have been looking forward to his visit."
Her husband, who rarely attended the temple, replied, "That's good, but I have always wanted to ask you this question. You have been going to the temple to listen to many sermons for a long time...probably over thirty years on your own, and for many years before that with your parents. What have you been listening to all these years? Either you don't really listen, or you should have made it to the Pure Land by now. If you haven't made it by now, don't you think it is a waste of time? Why don't you just stop going?"
The wife kept silent and thought a little while. Finally, she said to her husband, "Every night I make dinner, and every night you have a drink with your meal. You have been drinking every single evening ever since we were married. Don't you think you've had enough of drinking? What good is it? You should have had enough of it by now."
The husband became angered, and told her, "Don't be a meddler. I work long hours...when I come home, my body and mind are both exhausted. When I have a drink with dinner, I am able to relax and enjoy the evening. I feel better, and I am ready for the next day."
The wife smiled, and told her husband, "That is the same reason I enjoy listening to the Dharma. Listening is much the same as eating meals. We eat meals three times a day. Also, you drink at dinner to help you from your fatigue. Even though we eat today, we still need to eat tomorrow. With each meal, we gain energy and feel refreshed to face what comes next in life. No matter how many long years we listen, no matter how we think we understand, we need to listen to the Dharma constantly so that we will be reminded of life and how to live with awareness and meaning."
We began the month of June with a Memorial service for Eshinni, Kakushinni, and Lady Ohtani. We were reminded to recognize the contributions of the past that bring us to more fully appreciate the present. We then had the 60th Anniversary Celebration. I still hear many comments about how nice that day was...from the service...to the dinner...and the program. Everyone seemed to enjoy the occasion and the significance of it. Again, we were reminded to recognize the contributions of the past that bring us to appreciate the present. Last week already seems like a long time ago, but we enjoyed Father's Day with a family service, luncheon, and games. Once again, we recognize the support we have received that bring us to this point in our lives today.
After that service, I was thinking about my own family. I had thoughts and images of my son, Shingo, when he was small...standing in his underwear after a bath, yelling, "Only Me!" He would look like Momotaro, Peach Boy. "Only Me!" He couldn't even pronounce "only", and it would come out "Onni Me!" Then I thought of my own father when I was the little one. I would ask him, "Let's eat some watermelon." And he would answer, "Shall we?" "Let's eat some ice cream." "Shall we?"
Maybe as we cultivate the practice of listening to the Dharma, we all move from the self-centered declaration of "Only Me" to the other-centered consideration of "Shall we?"
Rev. Kosho Yukawa, also of Tacoma, likes to use the example of the iceberg in helping us to see ourselves. "It is said that an iceberg floats on the ocean with only one-seventh of it showing above the surface. The major portion -- six-seventh of it -- is immersed in the ocean. That is, in order for a small portion of the iceberg to be above water level, a major portion has to support it under water. Our life, too, is like an iceberg. The direct causes for our existence are like the tip of the iceberg, and the unseen or indirect causes for our existence are like the hidden part of the iceberg. Because we cannot see the part immersed in the ocean, we are not aware of it and take it for granted. It is meaningful to realize that the major portion of our existence is dependent upon the indirect and unseen blessings which we are receiving.
Here at the temple, we are encouraged to recognize that it is the shared experience that brings life enjoyment and meaning. This is true in the family, and it might be even more true in the temple. Often the family is just a bigger "me". Listening to the Dharma and living the shared experience of life at the temple helps each of us to break through all the various versions of "me".
There are a countless number of things that allow us to live our lives. These are the unseen blessings that if we can recognize them, we are moved away from the perspective of "Only Me". In the Shin Buddhist tradition, we listen to the Dharma together ... we work as a Sangha together ... every occasion is a shared experience. We emphasize sharing over self and Sangha over individual. Let's continue to make every effort to support our Sangha life together, shall we?
Gassho: Those who reach the Pure Land of happiness return to the evil world of the five defilements where, like the Buddha Shakyamuni, they benefit sentient beings without limit. (Jodo Wasan)
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